Zone 10/Region 7 representative Erin Nichols came home from the FEI North American Youth Championships with a few extra souvenirs: three medals to be precise. The young athlete from Yorba Linda, California, and her own Handsome Rob AR topped the Young Rider Freestyle Test with a personal best score of 74.456%, a victory that came after an individual gold medal for the Young Rider Dressage division and a team silver medal for Region 7, all in the same week.
Her talent is not limited to the dressage rings however, as Erin has competed as a show jumper at Desert International Horse Park, and across the nation, as well. We sat down with this extremely accomplished rider to find out more about her experience in both disciplines and what she’s learned from each one.
DIHP: How long have you been jumping and riding dressage? How’d you get involved in each one?
EN: I’ve been competing in dressage for about 10 or 11 years and for 8 years in jumping. I first started riding when I was 4 years old. My mom also rides so I’ve been around horses my whole life. I first started in Pony Club and I got my first pony Velvet when I was in Kindergarten.
DIHP: How does each discipline influence the other and help you learn?
EN: Jumping can help dressage with the ability to visualize and see exactly where things should happen in a dressage test. This helps with accuracy to get the higher marks. Jumping also helps with the rider’s bravery, quick thinking and the ability to react if something doesn’t go to plan.
Dressage can help Jumping with everything between the jumps. Keeping the horse more supple, relaxed and listening to the aids in order to make more tidy of turns. I work a lot of flat and dressage with my jumping horses to work on these things. I’ve learned about gaging distances and moving your horse forward off your leg in jumping. I like to think of Show Jumping as an improv skit and dressage as a well rehearsed dance.
DIHP: Tell us a bit about each of your current horses.
EN: I now have two dressage horses Handsome Rob AR and Elian Royale. Rob I have brought up the levels since he was a five year old and I was 14 years old. Elian I just purchased while in Germany and he’s a Grand Prix horse. This is my first time having 2 dressage horses.
I have two jumpers as well, but one is leased out currently to someone at my barn. I currently ride my jumper Vanda Vuitton and we currently compete at the 1.10-1.20m level.
DIHP: What are your goals for the future?
I’ve started to move into a more Dressage focus, but I still love Show Jumping and I’m still continuing to jump. I’m going to start with my new horse Elian in the Young Riders Division with the plan of moving into the U25. I plan on continuing to develop Handsome Rob AR up the levels. More long term I have hopes of making a nations cup team one day, competing at Aachen and competing in a World Cup.
In jumpers I am excited to keep growing and competing with the hope of riding in a few 1.30m classes one day.
DIHP: What are some of your biggest accomplishments in jumping and dressage?
Team gold at NAYC 2021
Team silver, individual and freestyle gold at NAYC 2022
Top 15 at Hagen on Rob on the European Young Rider Tour
Equitation reserve champion in 2019 at the Festival of champions
CDS equitation champion for age group 7 times
PCHA Jumper championships winner in 2020
1.15m classic winner in 2022 on Poppy in the final class before I left for the European Tour
2019 Zone 10 reserve champion in 1.20m Junior division (USHJA Zone Jumper Championships)
DIHP: Any favorite memories at DIHP?
I love watching the big FEI classes now at DIHP and I always enjoy the USHJA Zone Jumper Championships offered at DIHP. I can really look back and see how I’ve grown as a rider through my videos from DIHP. It was my very first big jumper show in 2015.
I am so thankful DIHP is offering CDI competitions for all dressage riders to qualify for the big championships. I’m really excited for a great winter season in both Jumping and Dressage.
I’m so happy DIHP is offering big FEI classes in both Dressage and Jumping on the west coast. It has been amazing to watch all the fabulous improvements to the facility.
Catch Erin in both the dressage and jumper rings at DIHP this upcoming season in the desert, and never be afraid to explore more than one discipline! Erin herself is evidence that you can excel at more than one discipline simultaneously, and we are so thrilled to see the success she is garnering nationwide and on an international stage.